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 Getting Started STEP TWO           Getting Started STEP THREE

HELP DESK at Canterbury Cathedral Archives
A member of the society will help you get started with your research or will be pleased to talk to you about new avenues of research. from 9:15 to 12:45pm on the first Saturday on each month except bank holiday weekends.
 To make an appointment with Canterbury Cathedral Archives and for what to bring to obtain a CARN Readers card please go to the >Cathedral Archives website

Family research always starts with you and your parents. Then your Grandparents and their parents (who are your Great Grandparents). A starting target would be to find these 14 people before going back too far down the generations. This will allow you to perfect research techniques in centuries where there are many sources before tackling eras where there are few. Genealogy is not just about 'collecting' relatives to make the largest tree. Nor is it a competition to claim the oldest  ancestors. You will get the most out of this hobby if you find out about your ancestors' lives. Where they lived, worked and played. In recent years family researchers have noted trends for certain health issues in their ancestors which made them seek treatment before the issue become a problem for family members in this generation.

Start by asking if anyone in your family has already started family research or anyone who can tell you the names of your 14 direct ancestors. You can check these known people in records as a control group when developing your research techniques.

ORAL HISTORY - Family gatherings are an excellent place to collect oral family history so take a small notebook to weddings, christenings etc. It's not difficult to start a theme going people love to remember their past and to relate them for an interested audience and it will soon spark off others to add to the tales. You may find relatives who are the custodians of family photographs and papers. By showing an interest they may allow you to copy or, if you are very lucky, keep these documents and photographs. But before you gather up the 'treasures' ask for names and dates for each item. Its best to avoid labelling a relationship to photos such as 'Mum & Dad' as in the future this may not be obvious. Better to use personal names with any nicknames. Dates and places are also very useful to add.

Try not to stop the storytellers' flow by questions as it may lead them off the subject. Details can be clarified at the end.
● Note the source, who said what so you can go back to them for clarification.
Write down all the tale you are told, regardless of how far fetched the 'story', as pieces may be of use later.
Don't ignore younger members of the family they may have been told things by their elders that will add to the mix.
Record details of siblings as searches of close family may help when your prime subject gets 'lost' in the records.


KEEPING RECORDS - If you become the custodian of family photos and original documents they will need to be stored for prosperity There are several specialist companies who provide archive standard storage systems and display folders. You will often find them at family history fairs or a web search.

Once you have some information you will need to start keeping it in some logical order and a notebook will be adequate to start with. However, you will soon start amassing a great deal of information and if you have a computer you will find it is the logical way to store it all. Most family historians keep hard copies as a back up. If you don't have a computer or prefer pen and paper then start with pre-printed forms. You can buy them but they can also be found as a free download on the internet.

COMPUTER STORAGE -  you could make use of free online tree-makers on family research sites such as You don't need to take out a subscription to use them although this may mean you don't get the full experience of the site and you do need to see original documents yourself and not trust the transcribed index.

TAKE CARE WITH PERSONAL INFORMATION - be cautious about giving out any personal details of living persons and never publish them on a public website. Its a great help when a distant cousin contacts you from across the world and you are able to swap information with them. But in the excitement it is so easy to forget that you don't really know them and things you pass on to them may be published without your consent and you will not be able to stop them doing so.

TREE MAKER SOFTWARE - there are many on the market and they are not overly expensive. It is difficult to recommend any but prime points to look for would be a version for the country you are from so the terminology is familiar to you and check that the reports generated are suitable for your personal needs. Best of all is to find a couple of experienced family historians and get them to show you how their tree-maker works and ask what they do and don't like about it. If you don't know any Family Historians then join a Family History Society near to your current home. It does not matter if your family are not local to that area as family research does not significantly change from county to county. 

Getting Started STEP TWO           Getting Started STEP THREE     

Tricia Baxter, Secretary & Webmaster David Wood, Branch Chairman Page updated:  25 February 2016